I am turning eighteen years old. This is one of those “milestone” birthdays, even though every year you survive another revolution on this earth should be celebrated as a milestone. Eighteen is a big number for a girl who still remembers the outfit she wore to her cousin’s play when she was six years old (my fashion sense in 2004 was remarkable).
Eighteen means something. It’s an adult number. I even have to get my license renewed.
Compared to the little hill of seventeen, eighteen feels like a mountain. This is the year I graduate high school. This is the year I begin college, an entirely different/ terrifying chapter in the life of Maddie Rheinheimer. It’s the year I become independent and new. It’s the year things happen.
But who am I kidding, things happen either way.
I am at a school that gives me opportunities and laughter and knowledge that I’ve never experienced before.
I am an older sister to two of the most annoying/kindhearted boys in the world.
I am a part of a church that reaches the most far and dark corners of the city, and shows them the light.
And my personal favorite, I am a published author now, and my career of changing lives through words on a page has begun.
If we’re being honest here people, that is all that I want of my eighteenth year, and the rest to come: Change lives through my novels, blog posts, articles, essays, poems, and letters. I just want to write.
This is the year of my future.
And to celebrate the year of my future, I’m going to give you some advice that I’ve accumulated from the past.
This year was a year of changes and scary changes at that. But ultimately, as I write this post, I wouldn’t have done it any other way; and if I had, I wouldn’t be writing this post. Sometimes you just have to stop looking at the ground, close your eyes, and jump.
I am a notoriously fast, angry driver. I have places to go, and am usually running a tad behind schedule, therefore my foot stays glued to the gas. In my 18th year, I am going to try and break this habit. I’ll breathe more, enjoy the song on the radio, and drive slow enough to admire the moment.
3. Drive fast.
This above statement being put out in the open, sometimes you just got to put the pedal to the metal and get out of the way. Drive with passion.
4. Look people in the eyes.
Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that people don’t fall in love with humor, beauty, personality, even though these factors are important. They fall in love with your eyes. Eyes are symbolic and meaningful, and you can discover everything about a stranger just by the color.
Just like basketball players train in the weight room and on the court, writers must improve their game as well. We do this by reading. Reading everything. From cartons of milk to coupons to newspaper clippings to novels as thick as my arm. My love for reading is one of my manias, and I will admit this to anyone who considers me a “nerd”.
6. Wake up early.
Part of my rebellious teenage nature is to stay awake until the moon sets, but lately, I’m in bed before it even rises. I’ve gotten into the routine of going to bed early and waking up early, and I can honestly say that I am most productive between 6 and 9 am, even before coffee (and that’s saying a lot).
7. Spend time with children.
I’m not the biggest fan of sticky messes, which is basically what little kids are, but talking/listening to a tiny human speak makes my heart happy. Their minds and souls are so pure, so raw, so clean, that even the simplest things amaze them. I watched a kid transform a park bench into an intergalactic pirate ship once, and I’ve never wanted anything more than that uncontaminated sense of imagination.
8. Spend time with the elderly.
On the opposite end of the age spectrum, the elderly also have a special place in my heart, even though they don’t create space pirate ships out of thin air. They do, however, tell stories that change lives, something that is one of my only goals in life. Take the time to listen.
9. Don’t be afraid to cut people from your life.
Seventeen was the year that I said goodbye to the negative energy hoarders of my life. This sounds cruel, heartless, or self-centered, but I thrive so much better from the people in my life these days than I did two years ago.
10. Make new friends.
Going along with #9, I have friends in my life that I never would have imagined I’d be spending time with. Sometimes it’s as easy as taking a risk, striking up a conversation, and hoping they enjoy Joe Biden memes and breakfast food as much as you do.
11. Create a bucketlist/goal chart.
You’ll never get what you want if you don’t even know what it is. I sat myself down, evaluated who I was, and who I wanted to be, and realized precisely what I wanted of my future, all the way down to the number of shelves in my future closet.
12.Go to church on Sunday morning.
No matter how late or crazy Saturday night was, I regret everything so much more if I sleep in until noon and miss the Sunday sermon. I’ve come home at four in the morning and still dragged myself to church, and it was the best decision of the entire weekend. Never miss the opportunity to enlighten.
13. Take care of yourself.
I’ve learned quite a bit in the last eighteen years, and one of the most important lessons is to take care of yourself first. Again, this may sound selfish, but you can’t help others if you’re the one in dire need of help.
14. Take a break.
I have an awful habit of reading until my eyes ache, of pacing until my feet are sore, and of planning days of back to back activities. Despite how productive this may sound, it actually has the opposite affect, and exhausts my poor mind/body/soul. Sometimes, instead of tackling the pile of papers on your desk, take a fifteen minute nap, drink hot tea, and watch an episode of Netflix. You deserve a break once in a while.
15. Write letters to your future self.
This was something I started in my seventeenth year, and one of the greatest ideas I’ve had. Over the year, I wrote at least a dozen or so letters to myself, carefully planning a date to open the envelope. I look forward to reading advice from my younger self with every passing day, and I highly recommend trying this time capsule of a hobby.
16. Practice patience.
The one virtue I need the most, and every year I tell myself I’ll work on improving. Yet every year, I find myself sitting at a red light yelling at the world for making me late every single time. Patience is important for not only a positive outlook on life, but also your blood pressure levels. I will continue to work on this in my eighteenth year. For real.
17. Learn how to play a card game.
All it takes is a universal deck of cards to entertain yourself for hours on end. The idea of a card game is so simple it’s magical. Knowing how to play your odds is not only a game, but it’s a life skill. Go Fish is my go-to gambler.
Probably the most important piece of advice I’ve mustered up in the last year, is prayer. Radical change is the only thing I can connect it to, and radical change I received. When I’m bored, I pray. When I’m overwhelmingly busy, I pray. When I’m sitting in class pretending to listen, I pray. When I’m stuck in traffic, I pray. With great prayer comes great success, and I don’t know if I’ve ever prayed harder than for my most recent book. And hey, it’s worked this far.
Ultimately, the past seventeen years have been quite the rollercoaster. And I can only imagine what kind of amusement park the remaining seventy or so (knock on wood) will be like.
Yours Truly (and officially an adult),